What does one do on Day 2 when the vast majority of exclusive figures on their list were acquired on Day 1? Stroll and go to Panels! And pick up the voucher pre-sale stuff from Matty, of course (incredibly painless and easy – Hasbro, et al, should take note and do the same!).
In terms of panels, my day was spent exclusively at Action Figure Panels – both Mattel ones and the Action Figure Insider. At this point I’m sure every detail has been published on every site, so allow me some commentary. I’m incredibly excited for the new Green Lantern Classics, especially the Low/Masher figure which I hope is the first of countless dual figures. I’m also really, really excited for the new DC Action League and all the Blackest Night figures there within. I have less than no intereste in Legion of Superheroes so I’m incredibly happy about the 12-pack, it frees up spaces in DCUC waves for ‘real’ characters. That said though, even the idea of a 12 pack is very tempting to me as battle/team builder so even though I ‘hate’ the Legion I may end up buying in. We’ll see though… the new JLU stuff also looks amazing but with the recent, and permanent, price hikes we’ll see if I buy in, let alone if they all get released.
MOTUC keeps rolling on strong, and what can I say that hasn’t already been writ. The Eternian Guard pack looks amazing and will easily be a 5 minute sell out. Neitlich also later confirmed that the white human head is his likeness. Ghostbusters remains as controversial as ever, even if not more so. Marshmallow Ray is pretty underwhelming and ^%$ing Egon with Stack of books is outright offensive, especially when shown next to Courtroom Ray with Nunzio Scoleri. I still like Ghostbusters too much not to buy the subscription, but I’ll try to bitch to the powers that be tomorrow.
“Behind the Plastic” is now the sole survivor of what once was 3 different fan-run, multi-company toy panels, and fortunately Dan is still able to maintain a great lineup of panelists. This year we had Scott Neitlich (Mattel), Geoff Darrow (Bif Bang Pow), David Vonner (Hasbro), Jesse Falcon (Hasbro), Head of Boys Brands Guy (Hasbro), George Brewer (DC Direct), Jerry Macaluso (Pop Culture Shock), Chuck Terceira (DST), and Jean St. Jean (JSJ Studios).
Falcon, as always, loves having a mic in front of him and gave some interesting points and decent jokes. He commented that a problem they’re facing is significantly shortened schedules for movies announced with release dates in place even before writing has begun. The example he mentioned was the new X-Men film for next year. Because a toyline takes 16+ months to do, they were effectively already behind schedule once it was announced as truly happening, and with filming over a month away they still won’t have finalized reference to work off of. Therefore they are forced to figure out how to prep and merchandize for it without realistically being able to have out movie accurate product. An interesting point and shows that these short and/or pre-determined release dates don’t just hurt the films, they impact the entire machine around that film. He also talked about Iron Man being a tough sell to retailers before the movie came out because he wasn’t percieved by them as an A-list hero – indeed they predicted Speed Racer would be the big hit of the year. However, with Iron Man’s success its opened the doors and made it easier for other Superheroes.
Neitlich commented that they’re having a pretty easy time getting retailers interested in a variety of GL product based off the Iron Man success (essentially selling GL as the new IM). At an earlier panel he had commented that 80% of his job is going out and getting the retailers happy and excited to carry as much of the product as he can possibly get them to – an interesting percentage and a valuable insight into the reality of what is for many of us a ‘dream job.’
Other highlights include Darrow revealing that both Twilight Zone and Venture Brother Megos will be sold at TRU (excellent!) and Vonner said that Gentle Giant sculpts all of the Marvel Universe figures. There was a lot of discussion of hand versus digital sculpting with the general concensus seeming to be digital was still finding its place but would only increase in prevalence. Brewer said DCD has something like 24 sculptors working for them now and only 4 use digital, but both he and Macalouso (who uses guys who sculpt digitally) seem to really like its ease, flexibility and cost savings (specifically in that they don’t have to keep shipping prototypes from sculptor to company to licensee and back and forth). Brewer said that digital sculpt output in color should be available in about 3 to 5 years, and when it is that will start changing things a lot more. He compared it to modern comics, which in many cases are done entirely digital but still have the artistry of decades gone by. It is indeed a brave new world. Sculptor legend Dave Cortez has moved from hand to digital sculpting and while I can’t think of any pieces I’ve seen from him recently someone on the panel (Brewer?) contended that his digital work is even better than his hand work.
Beyond that there was discussion that rising cost of production was the biggest issue they all had to deal with. Jean St. Jean touched on how not only how that affects how he approaches a piece, but gets really tricky once budgets are changed after he’s begun work and then would potentially need to rework the articulation or level of detail, etc. It was also stated that labor costs in China alone will be going up 40-60% in the next year alone… So expect those price hikes.
Vonner also confirmed his likeness is used for the upcoming Jim Rhodes face on Comics War Machine – aaaah the perks of brand management! Also, Marvel Legends Mystique’s likeness is based on Jessie Falcon’s girlfriend at the time.
So beyond finally buying a full sized WETA Raygun (the Righteous Bison aka the cheapest/plastic one) there is not much else to report. We closed out the night with our second annual visit to the Spike & Mike show and got plenty of eye fulls of grotesque/hilarious cartoon nudity. The show still doesn’t seem to live up to its reputation but the cartoons this year were, on the whole, better than last years. I’m still having more fun than I have in recent years and look forward to the next two days. God willing I’ll get some Hall H action tomorrow not to mention the Minimates panel and the Masquerade!